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FOI Research – Cabinet office issues record amount of tech in 2020

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy spent £1.87m on laptops and mobiles in 2020, Maintel research reveals  

Government departments spent millions on laptops and mobile devices in 2020*, according to stats acquired by Maintel, the leader in cloud and managed communication services.

The spend is likely to have been associated with these governmental departments purchasing equipment so that staff can work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic says Maintel.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Maintel revealed, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) alone spent £1.87m on laptops and mobiles last year, with 964 laptops or computers purchased in Q2 and Q3 alone. In total, BEIS issued 1,216 mobiles to staff in 2020 and 1,557 computers or laptops. 

However, BEIS is not alone in rushing out to purchase new technology during the pandemic. In a separate FOI request from Maintel revealed that The Cabinet Office issued a record number of mobiles in Q3 2020, up 48% on the previous year to 1,607, up from 1,086 in Q3 2019. 

The Cabinet Office was unable to reveal the costs of these purchases, citing that it could withhold the information “because it is exempt under section 43 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act. Section 43(2) protects information which would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).”

However, it would reveal just how many devices it had issued to staff. In 2020, the Cabinet Office issued 2,088 laptops or tablets in Q1, 2,226 in Q2, 967 in Q3 and 1,422 in Q4.

Meanwhile, an FOI to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) revealed that department had spent £260,466.35 on devices between September 1, 2020, and December 2021 – purchasing 865 android phones, 405 iPhones and 6 iPads. It did note that, “From 1 October 2020 DCMS has undertaken an upgrade programme for all laptop devices.”  

Ioan MacRae, CEO at Maintel, said: “Over the past couple of years most government departments have been undergoing a digital transformation process – and investment into new devices is clearly an important step in this. BEIS, for example, has invested nearly £11.4m (£11,393,750) in laptops, computers, tablet, and mobile phones since 2018.

“However, the pandemic is likely to have accelerated this process, with departments taking steps to ensure that staff can continue to work from home. This roll out of new mobile devices is likely to continue long after the pandemic, with the government having to adapt its own practices to enable a hybrid workforce – with staff splitting time between their own home and the office.

“A hybrid workforce does promise many benefits, but an ever-growing IT estate also increases the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches. As this digital transformation speeds ahead, these departments must ensure that their cyber security practices keep pace.”

*Data is for Jan-Nov 2020